This memorial piece was first posted to the Anglican Kossacks group blog at Daily Kos. Father Bernie is also one of the religious influences to whom I dedicated my lengthy socialized reflection piece on Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium.
I can’t do this “justice,” but I wanted to at least acknowledge to Anglican Kossacks and others who may be interested the loss of someone not particularly well-known but nonetheless very special to the faith and justice movement of the southeast. Not everyone earns a doctorate in theology from Accademia Alphonsiana in Rome at the height of liberation theology and does a dissertation on “Civil Disobedience as a Christian Option.” Not everyone then brings this audacious scholarship, blends it with a warm Irish soul, and influences a generation of minds to consider that concern for the poor and disenfranchised is far more important in God’s eyes than material success. Thus did my dear Father Bernie.
I will be driving from Nowheresville across the Deep South on Saturday to Jacksonville, Florida, where my spiritual father will be memorialized on Sunday. It was with great sadness that I received an email from a friend on Thursday with this gut-wrenching information:
The Rev. Robert Wallace Bernard (Bernie) Dooly died on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Fr. Bernie faithfully served as Canon of St. John’s Cathedral from 1994-2001, beloved Chaplain of the Episcopal University Center, Ruge Hall, in Tallahassee from 1979 – 1994, and also served at Trinity Episcopal Parish in St. Augustine from 1977-1979.
A Celebration of his Life will be held at St. John’s Cathedral, 256 East Church Street, Jacksonville, this Sunday, June 7th, during the 10:30 a.m. service. There will be a potluck lunch held in Taliaferro Hall following the service. All are welcome to attend.
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord; And let light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
I know for a fact that at least one democratic socialist who also happens to be an Episcopalian will be in attendance. The person whom we will be honoring is why I am both, although he made no effort to recruit me into any recognized political movement.
Father Bernie was the kindest most vivacious soul I have ever met. However, his kindness and vivaciousness did not leave him meek before injustice. He was quite clear that he did not like what the Republicans were doing to the U.S. and our world in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. That was when I was part of his flock, or more accurately, his organic community of fun, deep conversation, contemplative prayer, Taizé music, folk guitar, and shared simple meals.
To me, in hindsight, he was like an Irish American Martin Luther King, Jr., liberating me from a lifetime of self-recrimination and isolation. He preached with no more than a few notes written on a bulletin wonderful, honest, and passionate sermons from the heart and the mind. He said that the first obligation of a human being toward God is to bring God our authenticity. Imagine that, being honest with, as opposed to fearful of, God. Continue reading